Archive for the ‘ Obituaries ’ Category

John Burnham (1929-2017)


We at h-madness are saddened to hear the news of the passing last week of historian of medicine and psychiatry John Burnham. John served on the faculty at Ohio State University from 1963 to 2002, was president of the American Association for the History of Medicine from 1990-1992, and was editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences from 1997 to 2000.

Burnham’s works have left an indelible mark on the historiography of the human sciences and mental health in the United States. Over the course of his career, John exhibited a remarkable range of interests: from the historical links connecting the collective fates of drinking, smoking, taking drugs, gambling, and swearing to reconsidering the place of psychoanalysis in America to tracing how psychiatry was transnationalized following World War II through a remarkable switch to English-language communication.

In my estimation, one of his most novel and interesting works was his 2009 book Accident Prone: A History of Technology, Psychology and Misfits of the Machine Age. In it, he moved against the grain of the historiography of contemporary psychiatry – which has tended to focus on the proliferation of diagnoses – and explored how, despite the advocacy of some prominent psychologists following World War I, the diagnosis of “accident proneness” was usurped during the second half of the 20th century by engineers who “developed new technologies to protect all people, thereby introducing a hidden, but radical, egalitarianism.” Here is a fascinating and rather counter-intuitive story that pays attention to the histories of subjectivity, technology, the human sciences, and the environment, while also noting the political consequences of their interactions.


For those of us moving in the circles of professional conferences on the history of psychiatry and madness, John was a faithful, regular presence. What always struck me about John was his genuine curiosity in the subject and in what others had to say. Despite his vast experience thinking and writing about the history of mental health, he had a passion for hearing what the newest cohorts of junior faculty and PhD students had to say on the subject. His simple words of encouragement helped sustain younger, self-doubting colleagues like myself as we waded through difficult dissertations, unsuccessful job applications, and rejected manuscripts.

Passion, curiosity, intellectual boldness, encouragement: these are some of the chief characteristics of a successful mentor. And they just happen to be some of the characteristics I will always associate with John.

Greg Eghigian

Spring events in honour of John Forrester (1949-2015)

colloque_forresterTo honour the memory of John Forrester, renowned historian of psychoanalysis and the human sciences who passed away in late 2015, two conferences are being held this spring in Cambridge and Paris:

THE JOHN FORRESTER CASE (Cambridge, 18 May 2016)


Simon Schaffer and Liba Taub to Chair

9.15 Arrival: Coffee/Tea will be served in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science

9.45 Welcome: Liba Taub and Simon Schaffer

10.15 Session 1: Boris Jardine, The master of the marginal annotation

10.25 Session 2: Bonnie Evans, John’s Insight and ability to raise new questions

10.40 Session 3: Alexandra Bacopoulos-Viau, John Forrester, Doktorvater

10.50 Session 4: Emm Barnes, The supervisor as psychoanalyst

10.55 Session 5: Leon Rocha, What does it have to do with my penis?

11.10 Break

11.30 Session 6: Richard Ashcroft

11.45 Session 7: Amanda Rees, John as a supervisor and rugby fan

12.00 Session 8: Julia Borossa, John’s vision of psychoanalysis and his gift as a supervisor

12.15 Session 9: Katherine Angel

12.25 Session 10: Matt Drage

12.45 Buffet Lunch will be served in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science

14.00 Session 11: Andreas Mayer, Thinking in cases and its ramifications for HPS

14.40 Session 12: Michael Molnar, Emails and the origins of psychoanalysis

15.00 Session 13: Laura Cameron, On generosity

15.15 Session 14: Jim Secord

15.20 Session 15: Nick Hopwood and colleagues, Generation to Reproduction

15.40 Session 16: Rich McKay, Tiree Love Song

15.45 Final words

16.15 Memorial in Kings College Hall and Afternoon Tea

17.45 Drinks Reception in the Whipple museum

20.00 Finish

REGISTRATION: to register email Registration is free but places are limited. When registering, please let us know if you have any special needs or dietary requirements.


Penser et écrire l’histoire de la psychanalyse et des sciences humaines: autour de l’œuvre de John Forrester

EHESS, Amphithéâtre François Furet (105, bd Raspail, 75006 Paris), 23 mai 2016

John Forrester (1949-2015) fut l’historien de la psychanalyse le plus marquant de sa génération. Depuis sa thèse sur les rapports entre les sciences du langage et la psychanalyse – publiée en 1980 – il s’attacha à inscrire celle-ci pleinement dans l’histoire des sciences. Des rencontres décisives avec Thomas Kuhn, Michel Foucault et Jacques Lacan (dont il traduisit les premiers séminaires en anglais), scandaient son parcours et inspiraient sa manière inimitable de faire dialoguer dans ses travaux et dans son enseignement plusieurs approches et traditions intellectuelles. Professeur au département d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences à l’université de Cambridge, sa renommée était internationale, la plupart de ses travaux étant traduits dans une dizaine des langues. Au moment de sa disparition prématurée, deux ouvrages importants (l’un consacré à l’histoire de la psychanalyse en Grande Bretagne et l’autre à son projet « Penser par cas ») furent presque achevés et paraîtront de façon posthume. Ce colloque est un hommage au travail de John Forrester : il présente les acquis et les ouvertures d’une œuvre qui nous invite à penser et à écrire l’histoire de la psychanalyse et des sciences humaines d’une nouvelle manière.


Coordination : Andreas Mayer (Centre Alexandre Koyré, CNRS-EHESS-MNHN)

e-mail :


10h00-11h00. Ouverture et Introduction

10h00-10h20 Antonella Romano (Paris, Directrice du CAK, EHESS)

10h20-11h00 Andreas Mayer (Paris CAK, CNRS), « What else can it be ? » Inscrire la psychanalyse dans l’histoire des sciences


11h00-12h30. Session 1 : Langages de la psychanalyse 

11h00-11h40 Alain Vanier (Université de Paris 7), John Forrester et le temps de Lacan

11h40-12h20 Dany Nobus (University of Brunel), Translating Lacan: On John Forrester’s rendition of Lacan’s First Public Seminar


13:30-15:30. Session 2 : Penser par cas 

13h30-14h10 Gianna Pomata (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore), Styles of Reasoning and Epistemic Genres

14h10-14h50 Leon Rocha (University of Liverpool), Western Science and the Chinese Case

14h50-15h30 Jacqueline Carroy (Paris CAK, EHESS), Penser par cas ou penser en terme d’affaire? l’exemple des phénomènes de possession de Morzine (années 1860)


15h30-16h00 Pause café


16h00-18h00. Session 3 : Le siècle de Freud. Topographies, généalogies 

16h00-16h40 Nathalie Richard (Université du Maine, Le Mans), Archéologie et psychanalyse : quelques pistes pour une histoire croisée

16h40-17h20 Elizabeth Lunbeck (Harvard University), Hidden in Plain Sight:  Finding Psychoanalysis in Unexpected Places

17h20-18h00 Matt ffytche (University of Essex), John Forrester’s The Freudian Century: a Passagenwerk for Psychoanalysis?


18h00-18h30. Session finale

Lisa Appignanesi (London) en dialogue avec Andreas Mayer (Paris)





Obituary: Norman Dain (1926-2015)

One of the leading American historians of psychiatry, Norman Dain, Emeritus Professor of History at Rutgers University and a member of the DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, passed away on April 16, 2015 at the age of 89. He is survived by his wife Phyllis Dain, and his son Bruce Russell Dain.

Dain’s relationship with the DeWitt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry began in 1958. While completing his doctorate degree at Columbia University, Dain was appointed research fellow in the History of Psychiatry at the Payne Whitney Clinic and worked alongside director, Dr. Eric T. Carlson from 1958 to 1961. Norman was a devoted member of the Institute for over half a century, and retired as Adjunct Professor of History in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

An eminent scholar, Professor Dain published widely over the course of his career. His research interests included the American mental hygiene movement, the intellectual history of early American psychiatry, and the history of the anti-psychiatry movement. His three books were Clifford W. Beers: Advocate for the Insane (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980); Disordered Minds: the First Century of Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Va., 1766-1866 (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, University Press of Virginia, 1971); and his important work, Concepts of Insanity in the United States, 1789-1865 (Rutgers University Press, 1964). He received numerous honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship and the Benjamin Rush Award of the American Psychiatric Association.

Warm, wise, and deeply knowledgeable, Norman Dain was one of the guiding lights to the Cornell’s History Section as it developed into the DeWitt Wallace Institute. He will be greatly missed.

George J. Makari, M.D.

(To see the New York Times obituary, click here.)

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